Efficacy of Interventions That Incorporate Mobile Apps in Facilitating Weight Loss and Health Behavior Change in the Asian Population: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Siew Min ANG*, Juliana CHEN, Jia Huan LIEW, Jolyn JOHAL, Yock Young DAN, Margaret ALLMAN-FARINELLI, Su Lin LIM

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background:
Smartphone apps have shown potential in enhancing weight management in Western populations in the short to medium term. With a rapidly growing obesity burden in Asian populations, researchers are turning to apps as a service delivery platform to reach a larger target audience to efficiently address the problem.

Objective:
This systematic review and meta-analysis aims to determine the efficacy of interventions that incorporate apps in facilitating weight loss and health behavior change in the Asian population.

Methods:
A total of 6 databases were searched in June 2020. The eligible studies included controlled trials in which an app was used in the intervention. The participants were aged 18 years or older and were of Asian ethnicity. A meta-analysis to test intervention efficacy, subgroup analyses, and post hoc analyses was conducted to determine the effects of adding an app to usual care and study duration. The primary outcome was absolute or percentage weight change, whereas the secondary outcomes were changes to lifestyle behaviors.

Results:
A total of 21 studies were included in this review, and 17 (81%) were selected for the meta-analysis. The pooled effect size across 82% (14/17) of the randomized controlled trials for weight change was small to moderate (Hedges g=–0.26; 95% CI –0.41 to –0.11), indicating slightly greater weight loss achieved in the intervention group; however, this may not be representative of long-term studies (lasting for more than a year). Supplementing multicomponent usual care with an app led to greater weight loss (Hedges g=–0.28; 95% CI –0.47 to –0.09). Asian apps were largely culturally adapted and multifunctional, with the most common app features being communication with health professionals and self-monitoring of behaviors and outcomes.

Conclusions:
More evidence is required to determine the efficacy of apps in the long term and address the low uptake of apps to maximize the potential of the intervention. Future research should determine the efficacy of each component of the multicomponent intervention to facilitate the designing of studies that are most effective and cost-efficient for weight management.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere28185
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Volume23
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank librarian Monica Cooper from the University of Sydney for her assistance with the development and refinement of the search strategy. The authors are also grateful for the support from the Singapore Ministry of Health's National Medical Research Council under its Health Services Research Grant program (NMRC/HSRG/0063/2016).

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank librarian Monica Cooper from the University of Sydney for her assistance with the development and refinement of the search strategy. The authors are also grateful for the support from the Singapore Ministry of Health’s National Medical Research Council under its Health Services Research Grant program (NMRC/HSRG/0063/2016).

Publisher Copyright:
© Siew Min Ang, Juliana Chen, Jia Huan Liew, Jolyn Johal, Yock Young Dan, Margaret Allman-Farinelli, Su Lin Lim. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (https://www.jmir.org), 16.11.2021. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on https://www.jmir.org/, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

Keywords

  • systematic review
  • meta-analysis
  • mobile app
  • obseity
  • weight loss
  • Asian
  • physical activity
  • adults
  • mobile phone
  • Mobile phone
  • Obesity
  • Physical activity
  • Weight loss
  • Systematic review
  • Mobile app
  • Meta-analysis
  • Diet
  • Adults

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